Texting PSNI officer charged with trying to pervert justice over killing case

An officer has launched a legal bid to stop a case linked to the death of a man in a single punch attack going to trial before a jury.

Sep 8, 2017

An officer has launched a legal bid to stop a case linked to the death of a man in a single punch attack going to trial before a jury. Lawyers acting for Detective Sergeant Cathy Thompson moved a `no bill` application before Judge Philip Babington at Derry Crown Court. The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officer faces two charges of sending text messages with intent to pervert the course of justice. The victim, 28-year-old James McDonagh from Castledawson in Northern Ireland, died in hospital from brain injuries he sustained in the attack in the car park of the Elk Bar, Toomebridge, on January 10, 2016. Finbar McCoy, 25, from Toomebridge, has been charged with the manslaughter of Mr McDonagh and is due to be appear at Belfast Crown Court next Friday (September 15). The Derry court was told on Thursday (September 7) that Det Sgt Thompson, 34, is charged with sending two text messages to McCoy`s sister – Ciara McCoy – whom the officer was then in a relationship with. One text stated: “Yeah, don`t have anything in the house u shouldn`t have as they will land to arrest him. They will then search the whole house for clothing.” The second text message added: “Tell him to behave and say nothing.” Defence barrister Gavin Duffy QC moved the `no bill` application, arguing that the defendant had done nothing wrong in sending the two text messages. Mr Duffy said: “There is nothing illegal in saying to someone to say nothing. It seems to me to be patently clear that is not an act with intent to pervert the course of justice, nor was it intended to do so. “If saying nothing was a crime our docks would be full of local solicitors who advised their clients being interviewed in police stations to say nothing. “I struggle to see how that in any way can be deemed to be a criminal act.” Opposing the application, prosecution barrister Ciaran Murphy QC said by sending the messages the defendant was tipping off McCoy`s family “in terms of what was going to occur when the police arrived”. “The defendant knew what had happened and that Mr McDonagh was then in a critical condition in the hospital with a critical brain injury. “It is not a case of treating the defendant differently because she is a police officer. She knew what she was doing and what she was exhorting Miss McCoy to do,” he said. “I submit it was to remove potentially incriminating material from the house. “This material was in relation to the criminal death of Mr McDonagh.” Judge Babington said he would rule on the application on September 21.

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